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Handling Complaints Before Coffee

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Dispatchers and phone reps who handle a considerable volume of telephone calls know the importance of balancing attitude and aptitude. Working in a service company can be demanding, especially during busy customer demand cycles. Employees should be trained to stay in character and maintain a positive attitude in order to perform at peak aptitude. When a phone rep becomes unnerved by a difficult or irate customer, their attitude is apt to suffer. When the attitude goes south, the aptitude usually isn’t far behind.

One of the most troubling phone events that I have observed was the result of an early morning call from a displeased customer who apparently had been rehearsing his tirade. I call these events: “Dreaded Morning Calls.”

Dreaded Morning Call Example

On a sunny Thursday morning, Rob, a phone rep, arrives at his call center in a terrific mood. Rob has had a good week thus far. He is preoccupied with thoughts of his upcoming weekend trip to the mountains. Rob begins his day confident that it will be just like any other.

He puts on his telephone headset and instinctively logs into the phone queue. He sees his incoming call LED light up, hears the click in his headset, and then greets his first caller in a perfunctory manner. The caller is quite angry and Rob winces as the customer yells at him.

Rob is startled by the verbal assault and is quickly shaken out of his tranquil mindset. He is not prepared for a confrontation. He attempts to formulate a strategy, but to no avail. Rob is unable to focus his thoughts in a logical fashion. Trying to compose himself, he then inquires of the customer, “May I investigate the matter and call you back in a few minutes?” His hope is that this strategy will afford him enough time to regain his composure, collect his thoughts, look into the matter, and then respond effectively.

However, the customer is adamant in his resolve and replies, “No, I want an immediate resolution!” Rob is at a complete loss and unable to respond. He labors all through the call and thinks to himself, “It’s going to be a miserable day!”

What These Calls Do To A CSR

In the above example, Rob is struggling with his attitude due to the unforeseen demand of the customer. His deficient attitude also affects his ability to think, work, and prioritize (i.e., his aptitude). This “Dreaded Morning Call” was also stressful to Rob due to what took place inside his body the moment he heard the irate voice of the customer. Prior to answering the telephone call, his metabolism was calm and steady. As soon as he was involved in the conversation with the angry customer, his metabolic rate surged to a heightened state of alert. This abrupt change negatively affected his attitude and thus diminished his aptitude and ability to carry out his duties as a courteous, professional, and astute call representative. The “Dreaded Morning Call” had such a profound effect on Rob due to the speed in which his metabolism was transformed from calm to stress.

Rob might handle numerous phone calls during a typical work day. Some are challenging while others are considered routine. As he works, his body’s metabolism is adjusting itself to the day’s challenges. So, if he receives a call from an irate customer sometime around 1:00pm, his metabolism has already been escalating at an incremental rate. His metabolism has already been conditioned by the numerous calls he has already handled. But, first thing in the morning, his metabolism was not conditioned. Thus, Rob found himself either thinking irrationally or, worse yet, not reasoning at all.

It is my experience that dispatchers and phone reps who encounter a “Dreaded Morning Call” usually do not recover or return to their usual level of productivity for the remainder of the business day.

I suggest a 10 second adjustment, at which time you consider this question: “Am I ready for a “Dreaded Morning Call?” If the answer is no, then get ready, get stable, and develop a positive attitude, so that you will be able to perform at peak aptitude even if you get that call.

Steve Coscia, CSP

Posted In: Customer Service

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